Records Sought on Serial Killer's Execution

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Courthouse News joined a dozen other media outlets in Larry Flynt's crusade to unseal court records on the November 2013 execution of Joseph Franklin, a serial killer who shot and paralyzed Flynt.
     Flynt was denied the right to intervene, the court finding that Flynt had only a generalized interest in the litigation.
     Franklin shot Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, in 1978, leaving him confined to a wheelchair.
     Franklin was executed by lethal injection on Nov. 20, 2013.
     Flynt, an opponent of the death penalty, sought to have Franklin's sentence commuted to life in prison.
     Franklin's execution brought scrutiny to Missouri's execution process.
     The state recently switched to using pentobarbital from an unidentified compounding pharmacy.
     Death penalty opponents argued that using improperly stored pentobarbital could create cruel and unusual punishment.
     Joining as plaintiffs were The Missouri Press Association, Advance Publications, the American Society of News Editors, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the First Amendment Coalition, The McClatchy Company, MediaNews Group dba Digital First Media, the National Press Photographers Association, The New York Times Company, the Newspaper Association of America, Politico, The Washington Post and Courthouse News.
     The American Civil Liberties Union filed amicus briefs on behalf of Flynt and the media and two watchdog groups on Monday.
     "Concerned citizens and the media are watchdogs of our government and often seek access to sealed court documents," said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. "If the district court's decision is allowed to stand, it would be nearly impossible for any member of the media or the general public to challenge a decision to keep court records secret."
     Despite numerous legal efforts to shed light on the execution protocol, a federal appeals court ruled in January that unless a convicted murderer suggests a more humane execution, the plaintiffs are not entitled to more information.
     Missouri has carried out two more executions, even after an apothecary shop in Tulsa, Okla. stopped providing the drug under legal pressure.
     Starting with Franklin, Missouri has executed five inmates in the past five months.